Garden Update – June 26, 2015

4baskets 3baskets

My little hanging garden is coming along nicely. I’ve added a couple more baskets! First up is the upper-basil, lower-sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomato plant has exploded, it’s huge! Unfortunately it’s only put forth one fruit so far. There are a bunch of flowers though, so I’m hoping more are on the way. Basil is doing fine.

[image: indigo rose tomatoes]

[image: indigo rose tomatoes]

Second is upper-thyme, lower-Indigo Rose tomatoes. Although this bush isn’t as big as the cherry tomatoes, it’s putting out a lot more fruit. I’ve got one good-sized tomato and four smaller ones growing. And there are a bunch of flowers on this plant as well. I’ve heard these take a while to ripen. They will be dark purple when they’re done. Thyme is going great guns.

[image: super chili peppers]

[image: super chili peppers]

The third is upper-super chili peppers, lower-ichiban eggplants. The chili peppers are looking great! There are SEVEN chilis and a ton of blossoms! Salsa is in my future. The eggplants are frustrating me. This one has a bud, but it hasn’t blossomed yet. I’m thinking maybe a week out?

[image: sweet gypsy bell pepper]

[image: sweet gypsy bell pepper]

The last basket is upper-sweet gypsy bell peppers, lower-Casper eggplants. These eggplants are even more annoying than the Ichibans. I’ve had three blossoms, but each one has withered and fallen off. I’m hoping the current blossom makes it. I had a problem with some aphids on this plant in particular, but I was able to get rid of them. The bell pepper is so cute! I think another one is starting to form.

Vincanto and Ben Ryè

Ben Ryè

[image: a half-bottle of Ben Ryè, a sweet Italian dessert wine]

This wine, man. THIS WINE. But let me start at the beginning…

I was absent from the blog for a couple weeks because I was in Italy! I love Italy. Generally I tend to stick to the north, the Florences and Venices and whatnot, because man oh man do I love visiting churches. But this time my parents and I flew into Rome and headed south. We stayed in Pompeii for a few days, doing the ruins there and in Herculaneum as well as visiting Mt. Vesuvius and Naples and Capri.

Our hotel happened to be about two or three blocks from this restaurant, Vincanto. We ended up going there twice because we had such a good time and the owner, Yuri, was excellent at making us feel welcome. Before we visited the first night I had read up on some reviews online, and they suggested talking to Yuri and letting him choose. I was able to convince the parents to go along with this plan, and we had such a lovely, lovely dinner. Vincanto is ostensibly a wine bar, but they’ve got plenty of small plates, and honestly, a bottle of wine and some munchies are all we need to be happy in this world.

Our first course was a potato and salumi croquette, which had explosions of salt. Next there was a wee eggplant parmesan, which had smoked cheese in it and was so good. The eggplant tasted incredibly sweet. Let’s see, then there was a panini we split that was made on “ancient” bread (I think it was spelt or farro? some olden-style grain) that had amazing cured meats and cheeses again. The last savory course was a round of vegetables and THESE WERE OUTSTANDING. There were these wheels of spinach and a soft cheese which I loved, a fennel salad, and a golden tomato bruschetta that blew Mom’s mind (“How did they get tomatoes that taste this fresh this early in the season?!”).

But what stuck in my mind the most was one of our after-dinner drinks. Yuri had brought over three dessert wines, and the best of these was the Ben Ryè from Donnafugata. It tastes like late afternoon in summer, if the sun were an apricot. It’s so delicious. I decided that I must, MUST find this in America.

Easier said than done. But I did it! I was able (after several emails and phone calls, and if you know me, you know this must have been liquid gold since I hate hate HATE talking to people on the phone) to find a local(ish) place that sells it. I have an event this weekend I’ll be bringing it to so I can share it with friends. And they better like it, or… well, or else I’ll get more to drink. Win-win, really.

So yes! If you’re in Pompeii, go to Vincanto and say hi to Yuri. And check out their Facebook page too, Yuri posts a lot of photos from the restaurant. I want that place to succeed wildly! Great service, great meal. I’d eat there again in a heartbeat.

P.S. Check out my mom’s blog entries on our trip at marymom.com!

Gardening!

baskets

[Image: two hanging wire baskets with coconut fiber liners, containing herbs growing up and tomatoes growing down.]

I am not a gardener, but I want to learn. I have friends who have amazing vegetable gardens and I get so jealous thinking about their tomatoes! So this year I am trying my hand at upside-down tomato growing. I read about it on Instructables and thought it didn’t look too hard for a beginner.

(I saw a lot of tutorials using 5-gallon plastic buckets as well, but I wanted them to look… not like they were in plastic buckets.)

In the left basket are indigo rose tomatoes growing down, and a couple thyme plants on top. In the right basket are sweet 100 cherry tomatoes growing down with basil on top.

It’s been a couple days (and hey! we actually got rain the day after I planted! amazing!), and they haven’t died yet, which is frankly amazing. Also amazing is the tomato plants’ determination to grow upwards. Already I am seeing heliotropism as they try and stretch up towards the sun.

I really hope this works.

Mujaddara

homemade mujaddara

[Image: a white bowl containing mujaddara, a rice-and-lentil dish with caramelized onions]

This was my dinner tonight. Mujaddara is a vegetarian rice/lentil/onion dish that I very much like, ever since I first discovered it back in 2009. Of course, the mujaddara I had back then was VERY different than the recipes I have found since.

restaurant mujaddara

[Image: a plate of food containing very yellow mujaddara, hummus, and a tomato-cucumber-pepper salad]

This is the mujaddara plate from Mediterranean Grill House in Mountain View. I started going there occasionally in 2009, after I lost my job. The mujaddara was the biggest bang for your buck there. You got a TON of food for cheap. As a bonus, you always got your food super-fast because they didn’t have to grill any meat. I tried it once on a whim, really liked it, and continued ordering it there even after I got a new job. I continued visiting Mediterranean Grill House until I moved, back in January. (Also, they had switched their soda machine from Coke to Pepsi, which broke my heart.)

So yeah, I thought mujaddara was supposed to be bright yellow for the longest time. And that it should contain macaroni (?!). Imagine my surprise when I ordered the same dish from Palo Alto’s Mediterranean Wraps. That one was much more inline with the recipe I made tonight as well as basically every recipe I’ve seen on the internet. (It also instilled in me the idea that since both my local places offered it, every Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant would have this on their menu. This is not true, and it super-bums me out that my current local kebab place doesn’t have it.)

I’ve tried a couple different recipes, and none of them have quite hit my craving yet. Tonight’s recipe was from Budget Bytes. I’ve also tried this one from Food 52. I’ve looked at this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but I haven’t tried it yet. Once I hit upon a combination I dig, I’ll post the recipe here.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to have it with an over-easy egg for breakfast. Yum.

Jodhpurs

M4960

[Image: the pattern envelope for McCall 4960. On the left, a photo of a woman wearing a tan turtleneck and some truly hideous brown jodhpurs. In the middle, a drawing of a women wearing a white turtleneck and sweater with some amazingly terrible pleated jodhpurs in a plaid pattern. On the right, a drawing of a woman in a white button-down shirt and really awful off-white pleated jodhpurs.]

Look what I got in the mail today! A couple years ago, I sort of half-assed my way through a pair of jodhpurs for a costume of Asami Sato from The Legend of Korra. Basically I just ballooned some pants above the knee and put in an elastic waistband. I’m not going to lie, they’re pretty terrible. The crotch is quite unflattering. As well as the butt. (You’ll notice I did not link to a photo of me standing.) This year, I want to remake those pants so I’m less ashamed of them.

It’ll be difficult to believe, but I could not find a pattern for jodhpurs anywhere (and by “anywhere,” I mean from any of the McCall companies). So I took to eBay to see if there were any old patterns. This one’s from 1990.

As you may be able to tell from the photo caption, I don’t have a high opinion of jodhpurs. They’re just the worst. But I love that the B and C variations on the pattern add pleats, because nothing adds pizzazz to trousers like pleats! And pleats in two different kinds! Just in case you have those days where you have to debate between two giant pleats or six smaller ones.

Coconut Macaroons

(adapted from David Leibovitz)

coconut macaroons

[Image: 43 golden-toasty coconut macaroons on a wire cooling rack on a green tablecloth.]

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup flour (see note)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Note:
If you’re making these for Passover, grind up matzoh in a spice/coffee grinder instead.

Mix all ingredients except vanilla in a large nonstick skillet over low to medium heat. Stir, and do not stop stirring. Things will look a little dire at first, but they’ll coalesce soon enough. Keep stirring.

When the mixture starts to scorch (I take this to mean darken a bit in color and make schlorpy noises when you move it around the pan), remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. I recommend a narrow container with as little exposed surface area as possible. Press some plastic wrap down on it to minimize air contact. (At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months. Bring it back to room temperature before baking if you do this.)

Heat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into 1-inch mounds with your hands and space evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Do not be tempted to pull them early, the darker they get, the better they taste! I sometimes use the convection setting for the second half of baking in order to get the edges dark and crispy. Cool completely before serving.

(These get better in the days following baking, so if you have the time, make them early. I store them in an unsealed zip-top bag in order to preserve their texture. Sealing it will soften them.)

Lupicia Golden Honey Dew Rooibos Tea

Lupicia Golden Honey Dew Rooibos Tea tin

[Image: a round metal tin of Lupicia’s Golden Honey Dew Rooibos Tea. Image from Steepster.com]

I visited Lupicia’s San Francisco store last weekend with my friend TeapotGirl, and it never fails that I pick up something new. However, if a new tea comes in, another must leave. And so it is with sadness that I bid farewell to Lupicia’s Golden Honey Dew Rooibos Tea, which is one of the most delicious iced teas I’ve ever tasted. I don’t even like honeydew melons, but this is so good.

A steeping note, if you ever find yourself in possession of this beauty. Since it’s only available in leaf form, I don’t recommend pouring the water over whatever your steeping mode of choice is. The leaves/twiggy components in the tea are very small and easily jostled out of a bag (I get my bags in giant packs at Daiso). Pour the water first, then gently place the bag into it.

Lupicia’s Golden Honey Dew Rooibos Tea can be ordered here.

Happy Eleventh Birthday!

I mean, technically. This blog was started March 22, 2004. Here was my first post and first recipe. We’ve since nuked the original site design, but look! Cute! That top image was from an apron my sister-in-law embroidered for me.

I will not lie that I’ve neglected this place for a long, long time. My last post on Braisin’ Hussy 1.0 was in 2010. And then I made a comment on that post directing people to Braisin’ Hussy… let’s call it 1.5, which was hosted here on WordPress. It’s still there, as a monument to my quite pathetic attempt to start blogging again, which lasted all of 24 posts.

But this time will be different! Probably! Braisin’ Hussy 2.0! Woo! Let’s go!

(I’ll do my best.)

Plum Cake

(adapted/simplified from the smitten kitchen, which was adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours)

1.5 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
8 small plums, halved and pitted

Heat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 8×8 baking dish. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until homogenized, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Continue beating, adding the oil, zest, and vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Arrange the plum halves cut side up on top of the batter in a 4×4 grid. Press the plums into the batter.

Bake, and start checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark. Cake is done when the top has browned and puffed up around the plums, and when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool on rack for 15 minutes, then de-pan. Cake may be stored for up to 2 days at room temperature.